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Statewide score wrap: Prop's momentum builds as reigning premiers downed

Bulimba Valleys may have got some payback for coming so close to West Brisbane Panthers last year but it was a mounting comeback warming the cockles at Frank Lind Oval on Saturday.

The Bulldogs’ forwards on the whole were outstanding in an 18-6 win but it was Riley Leota crashing over on the stroke of half-time to help his side to a 12-0 lead at the break – an exclamation mark on the mental edge they held throughout the match.

The 26-year-old was on the NRL radar after playing 45 Hostplus Cup games at Norths Devils - having also spent time in systems at Brisbane Tigers and Melbourne Storm Under 20s – but admits the pressure of expectation by the end of 2019 caused him to step away from the game for 18 months.

He returned to the park 20 kilograms heavier in reserve grade at Rosewood at 2021 just to play with his cousins, putting the fire in the belly again to play for his junior club Redbank Plains Bears in the Ipswich premier competition.

Bulimba coach Mitch Edwards jumped at the chance to bring Leota back to the BRL – after a pre-season at Brisbane Tigers – and he made an impact against the club he played six matches for in 2018.

Riley Leota celebrates after scoring a try for Bulimba Bulldogs on Saturday. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL
Riley Leota celebrates after scoring a try for Bulimba Bulldogs on Saturday. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL

“I was lucky to get (the try), he hit me short and the gap opened up and I was fortunate I got over. It was good to get off the nudie early,” Leota said.

It’s only the start of a journey he hopes may lead back to Hostplus Cup in the future, but this time he has a different mindset to the one that took a toll physically and mentally in 22 top grade games in 2019.

“I sort of just fell out of love with the game, just thought I was doing it because people wanted me to and felt I was only doing it because I was good enough to do it in a sense, but I feel like I’m doing it now because I want to play,” Leota said.

“I’ve got a daughter now, so I feel like she’s another driver for me to play again. She just turned two... Aisha and my partner Tamia have been good inspirations, and my family as well.

“When I broke the news to them I wasn’t playing, I thought they’d be upset because I was doing pretty good, but they showed their love and support and coming back now the support is even bigger.

“I’m just trying to play the best footy I can, have some fun and see how things roll on from there.”

West Brisbane Panthers fullback Josh Hoffman gets tackled. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL
West Brisbane Panthers fullback Josh Hoffman gets tackled. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL

The hard charging X-factor was crucial to the game plan of winning the middle, which the Bulldogs did without the ball with bone-crunching defence forcing errors in the first half.

Otherwise their defensive pressure contributed to Wests’ poor execution. The Panthers let opportunities slip in sight of the try line in the first half and couldn’t get past half way in the opening 25 minutes in the second stanza, completing just 14 of 34 sets in the match to the frustration of returning coaches Tye and Craig Ingebrigtsen.

In the sets they completed, former NRL star Josh Hoffman had a few class touches in his return to footy, including swooping on a Toby Westcott chip kick in a spectacular passage leading to a William Toloi try.

Valleys and Normanby kicked off the BRL season. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL
Valleys and Normanby kicked off the BRL season. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL

Earlier it was Normanby winger Blessed Tumua who scored the first try of the 2023 BRL season and despite a closely fought first half, home side Valleys ran away with it 40-16 to the pleasure of former greats including Wally Lewis, who was present for the club’s Ross Strudwick Heritage Round celebrations.

The legends joined the two teams, referees and other spectators in a solemn minute’s silence observed pre-game in honour of QRL and BRL referees association life member – and long-time Valleys supporter - Darol ‘Dick’ Langenbaker, who died in January, age 87.

Competitions in Ipswich, Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Central Highlands, Bundaberg and Northern Districts are set to kick off next weekend.

South East region

BRL Premier A Grade

Round 1 results

Valley Diehards 40 def Normanby Hounds 16
Beenleigh Pride 40 def Pine Rivers Bears 20
Souths Junior Magpies 26 def Brighton Roosters 18
Bulimba Bulldogs 18 def West Brisbane Panthers 6
Wynnum Manly Juniors 36 def Carina Tigers 14


# Team P W L D B +/- Pts
1 Valley Diehards 1 1 0 0 0 24 3
2 Wynnum Manly Juniors 1 1 0 0 0 22 3
3 Beenleigh Pride 1 1 0 0 0 20 3
4 Bulimba Bulldogs 1 1 0 0 0 12 3
5 Souths Junior Magpies 1 1 0 0 0 8 3
6 Brighton Roosters 1 0 1 0 0 -8 1
7 West Brisbane Panthers 1 0 1 0 0 -12 1
8 Pine Rivers Bears 1 0 1 0 0 -20 1
9 Carina Tigers 1 0 1 0 0 -22 1
10 Normanby Hounds 1 0 1 0 0 -24 1

Rugby League Gold Coast A Grade

Postponed until April 15

Central region

Wellshot Hotel Central West Rugby League Seniors Premiership

Blackall Magpies 56 def Winton Diamantina Devils 6
Barcaldine Sandgoannas 52 def Alpha Brumbies 24


# Team P W L D B +/- Pts
1 Longreach/Ilfracombe Tigers 3 2 0 0 1 40 4
2 Blackall Magpies 1 1 0 0 2 50 2
3 Barcaldine Sandgoannas 2 1 1 0 1 8 2
4 Alpha Brumbies 2 1 1 0 1 -16 2
5 Winton Diamantina Devils 3 0 3 0 0 -82 0

Rockhampton A Grade Men

Emu Park Emus 48 def Fitzroy/Gracemere Sharks 6

Norths Chargers 24 def Yeppoon Seagulls 10

2023 Intersport Yeppoon Rockhampton Open Womens Premiership

Rockhampton Brothers 40 def Yeppoon Seagulls 4

Emu Park Emus 50 def Tannum Sands Seagulls 0

Fitzroy/Gracemere Sharks 10 def Norths Chargers 6

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